Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Munch Goes to Alihan's Mediterranean Cuisine

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Munch Goes to Alihan's Mediterranean Cuisine

Article excerpt

The Cultural District is Ground Zero for Downtown Pittsburgh's dining revival, and that turn of fortune has bled into Market Square as well. And while I appreciate the face-lift, I also appreciate the stubborn stretches of city block that manage to retain their "character," such as it is, in the face of all that newfangled city- folk investment.

Upper Sixth Street is such a block -- for how long, I'm not sure. Every year, a Six Penn or an Olive or Twist or a Butcher and the Rye creeps a little closer to the Allegheny River, and while I can't dispute the favorable results, I've also had plenty of favorable times at Salonika's dining room, Indian Spices, Cafe Milano and the like. Sometimes you want a selection of 400 bourbons, and other times you just want a nice warm slice of spanakopita and a Miller Lite, should the mood strike. (You'd be surprised how often this mood strikes.)

For now, small ethnic places survive here, and the new and fancy places have yet to fully mark their territory. So into this 100- yard culinary no-man's-land comes Alihan's Mediterranean Cuisine, hoping to straddle the line between the New Pittsburgh restaurants and its Old World cafeterias. It's in the rehabbed storefront where Lemon Grass Cafe (which closed in February and has been given new life in the South Side, now known as Apsara) used to be, taking up residence next-door to the block's longtime Mediterranean hideaway, Christo's.

The appetizers here are conventional among the city's Greek and Lebanese spots -- stuffed grape leaves, hummus, tart laban yogurt, tabbouleh. A beet salad ($6), which had conjured sweet autumn beets in my head, was rather less conventional, a plate of sliced pickled beets atop a bed of lemoned mashed potatoes, potted in a nest of orange slices. In all my years of having eaten my grandmother's Lebanese food, I don't recall having seen such a presentation, but then, maybe it's a Syrian thing. After World War I, a lot of the recipes got mixed up, I'm told. …

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